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You spend an hour a day on the elliptical trainer but you don't lose a pound. You wear out two pairs of running shoes without needing to buy smaller sweat pants. You swim 50 laps but never achieve a swimmer's physique. What are you doing wrong?

Resistance Exercise Is Not Just About Bulking Up

So much effort for so little reward tells you that not only is cardiovascular exercise not the best way to lose weight, it is not even a particularly good way. It takes far less time and less effort to burn fat with strength training.

How Resistance Training Fights Fat

The idea of resistance training is not to find a light weight that you can lift over and over again until you become bored. The idea of resistance training to find a heavy weight that you can only press or lift or move 3 to 12 times before your muscle strength is exhausted.

Challenging your muscles to find their limits does more than to help you bulk up. It also changes muscle physiology.

  • For about two hours after your finish your exercise session, the muscle is approximately 5000%, or 50 times, more sensitive to insulin. Insulin helps the muscle absorb the water and glucose it needs to replenish its store of glycogen fuel that helps it "bulk up," along with the amino acids it needs to rebuild the fibers that give it strength.
  • Insulin used to transport amino acids and glucose into muscle cells is not used to transport fat into fat cells.
  • Resistance exercise does not burn a lot of calories, but it changes your physiology so your fat cells are not "lying in wait" for every stray extra calorie. Along with dietary restraint, resistance training helps you lose weight.

The Inverted Pyramid

Dr. Richard Bernstein seems to have coined the phrase "inverted pyramid" to describe the kind of weight lifting or strength training that helps diabetics lower blood sugars and people who are overweight burn fat. Many people do a routine that involves lifting a challenging weight and resting between sets. Dr. Bernstein recommends starting with just a few repetitions of the very heaviest weight, or strongest resistance, the muscles can handle, then easing back to lower weight or lighter resistance as the sets progress.

Suppose you are doing curls. This exercise involves sitting on a bench or chair and Flexing the arm at the elbow to lift a weight. You might lift a 30-pound weight 10 times, rest for 2 minutes, lift it another 10 times, rest another 2 minutes, and then do a final 10 repetitions to complete the exercise.

To do an inverted pyramid, you might lift a 50-pound weight just 3 or 4 times, and rest the arm. Then you might lift a 40-pound weight 5 or 6 times, and rest the arm again. Then you might do 10 reps with a 30-pound weight to complete the exercise. The advantage of the inverted pyramid approach is that it keeps the muscle maximally active throughout the entire exercise, challenging the muscle so it can grow, but keeping blood flowing to the muscle longer than if you stopped with just the first 3 or 4 very difficult repetitions of the exercise.
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